As pollen counts rise in Central Texas, learn about cedar fever and allergy prevention

Common winter allergies in Texas are caused by pollen from the Ashe juniper—also known as a mountain cedar. The tree is native to the area. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Common winter allergies in Texas are caused by pollen from the Ashe juniper—also known as a mountain cedar. The tree is native to the area. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

Common winter allergies in Texas are caused by pollen from the Ashe juniper—also known as a mountain cedar. The tree is native to the area. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

As temperatures cool heading into the winter season in Central Texas, pollen counts from Ashe juniper trees begin to climb, causing seasonal allergies referred to locally by residents as “cedar fever.”

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, Central and West Texas is home to about 10 million acres of Ashe Juniper—also known as a mountain cedar—trees. Female Ashe junipers have berries and cones, while male trees cause the airborne pollen, according to the service.

Sumit Bose, an allergist/immunologist with Baylor Scott & White Health, told Community Impact Newspaper on Dec. 6 that cedar fever is fairly unique to Texas due to the large concentration of the trees.

“The interesting thing is that, in most of the United States, and especially in northern United States where you don’t have a lot of cedar trees, people actually get some relief from pollen allergies in the winter,” he said. “But here in Texas people continue to struggle with pollen allergies just because of the unique cedar allergies that we have.”

Cedar season runs from December-February


Bose said cedar trees pollinate for about three months out of the year, from December to February.

“By the end of February cedar trees stop pollinating, so typically people stop having symptoms of cedar allergies by early spring,” he said.

However, other pollen allergens are present in Central Texas throughout the year, including tree pollen in the spring, native grass allergies in the summer, and pollen from weeds in the fall.

“It is not uncommon for patients to be allergic to multiple things,” he said. “We routinely see patients suffer from tree pollen allergies in March and April [after cedar is no longer present].”

Cedar fever symptoms mimic the common cold

Bose said the name “cedar fever” is bit of a misnomer because typically people do not suffer from an actual fever but experience similar symptoms to a fever or cold. According to Bose, typical symptoms of cedar allergies include nasal congestion; sneezing; itchy, watery or puffy eyes; sore throat; coughing; and fatigue.

Winter is, however, still peak season for the common cold, the flu and other illnesses, and also brings with it an increase in dust allergies. Bose said those experiencing symptoms that are inconsistent with cedar pollen counts or inconsistent year to year could be catching colds or suffering from allergies that are not cedar-related.

Preventive measures before cedar season can help

Bose said many patients come in already suffering from severe allergies, when it could be too late for preventive measures to work. Taking an allergy-relief intranasal steroid spray prior to the season and “not playing catch up” when pollen counts rise can help reduce or fight off symptoms.

“If people have a documented cedar allergy, they should start using their nasal sprays at least a week or two before cedar season,” he said, “Think of Thanksgiving as a reminder that you should start using your nasal spray regularly, and stay on it continuously through the season to be the most effective.”

Other techniques can help reduce symptoms

Bose said he recommends that once cedar season begins, those prone to the allergen keep track of pollen counts and stay indoors when counts are high. If required to spend extended time outside, he said to change clothes once back inside and to shower before bed to remove any pollen, preventing exposure at night.

Nasal saline washes can help clean pollen out from nasal and sinus cavities, he said. Over-the-counter medications—such as antihistamines and intranasal steroid sprays—can be taken on an as-needed or daily basis, he said.

Bose said that seeing a board-certified allergist could also offer additional solutions or help pinpoint if cedar or other allergens are causing symptoms. Allergists can conduct allergy tests that can review what a patient is allergic to. Allergists can also administer immunotherapy, which can help the body build up a tolerance to an allergen over time, according to Bose.

People new to the region may not experience allergies right away

Bose said in order for an individual to develop an allergy, he or she has to have enough exposure to the pollen for a few years. Because of this, those new to Central Texas may not feel symptoms the first few years they live in the region but could develop the allergy later on.

“Sometimes we tend to hear that people who have moved down to Central Texas area initially don't have any symptoms of cedar fever, and that's actually true,” he said.
SHARE THIS STORY
By Nicholas Cicale

Nick was born in Long Island, New York and grew up in South Florida. He graduated from Florida State University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in writing and a minor in music. Nick was a journalist for three years at the St. James Plaindealer in Minnesota before moving to Austin to join Community Impact Newspaper in 2016.


MOST RECENT

New dockless vehicles, such as Revel mopeds, have entered the Austin market, in addition to electric scooters, pictured here in West Campus. (Emma Freer/Community Impact Newspaper)
City of Austin expects to see more dockless vehicles used for longer trips in 2020

When electric scooters first arrived in Austin in April 2018, residents and city officials alike raised concerns about regulations, safety and inconvenience.

Austin City Council directed the Austin Police Department to end enforcement of lower-level marijuana possession offenses to furthest extent possible under state law during a Jan. 23 meeting.  (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin police chief doubles down: Cops will continue citing and, in some cases, arresting for pot possession despite City Council direction

City Council decision does not change how police department handles marijuana possession, according to the police chief.

Trudy's North Star, located at 8820 Burnet Road, Austin, was closed as of Friday afternoon, Jan. 24, with a sign on the door saying the restaurant would reopen Monday, Jan. 27. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Trudy's files for bankruptcy, owes employees more than $267,000 in unpaid wages

According to court documents, the Tex-Mex restaurant's financial issues started with its Dripping Springs location, which lost over $1 million per year.

Students at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary Media and Performing Arts Institute in East Austin point to their classmate holding the red bag, whose artwork is featured on the new electric bus. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro sets ambitious goal to eventually replace all 423 buses with electric versions

Starting Jan. 26, riders can ride the new electric buses, which will rotate among routes.

(Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Council members divided over hire of outside attorney in property protest rights lawsuit

Some City Council members said taxpayer dollars should not be used to fight taxpayer interests.

While a new story is scheduled to open in South Austin this March, the H-E-B located at 600 W William Cannon Drive, Austin, will close this spring. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
South Austin H-E-B openings, closings and renovations expected in 2020

2020 is slated to be a year of major development for H-E-B in the South Austin area, with projects totaling $200 million.

Central Health is exploring options to provide a cash injection to its employees with minimum wage salaries. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Central Health will explore minimum wage bumps for its employees

The health care district is considering increasing its minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Austin EyeWorks gains new leadership as longtime doctor retires

An Oak Hill optometry office has welcomed a new eye doctor.

Construction on Sunset Valley city facilities including its new police building were completed in the early summer of 2019, but problems persist with its water features. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sunset Valley to withhold payment until city facility pond issues are resolved

Sunset Valley will withhold between $200,000-$250,000 in payments for its new water quality pond.

A photo of the exterior of Dripping Springs City Hall.
Neighborhood Note: Dripping Springs appoints the city’s first full-time attorney

Dripping Springs City Council has named Laura Mueller city attorney.

An aerial rendering of the schematic design for Dripping Springs ISD's fifth elementary school.
Plans progress on Dripping Springs ISD bond projects, new school construction in 2020

Construction will move forward at several Dripping Springs ISD school sites, both new and existing, this year.

Back to top